Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pitching Prosect #9: Michael Cisco

Michael Cisco is a different prospect than many that I have evaluated and will continue to evaluate. When you see prospect lists by such publications as or baseball America, long-term potential is valued more than actual production. This isn’t necessarily wrong as that is how one is supposed to scout young baseball players. Cisco is a pitcher that has had very good success in his two years in the minors. I will be the first to admit that I am much higher on Cisco than most. He does not have the most electric stuff compared to other minorleague pitchers, but he has much better control than most.

Cisco was drafted in the 36th round in the 2008 MLB draft out of the University of South Carolina. He is the grandson of Galen Cisco, who was a pitching coach for the Phillies in the late 90s, which probably was a reason why the Phillies gave him enough attention to draft him. After being drafted in 2008, he pitched for Williamsport and Lakewood and did nothing but impress. He pitched in 17 games, 7 starts, while posting an incredible ERA of 0.99. As impressive as his sub 1.00 ERA was, he possessed even more impressive control statistics as he only walked 5 batters in over 52 innings. After being promoted to Lakewood, Cisco pitched 35 innings without issuing a walk. The thing to pay attention to when evaluating college prospects is that most college rookies perform well in their first season as many times they are competing against younger high school prospects. Still, his success cannot be ignored.

2009 was a bit more of a struggle for Cisco even though he still performed well. Cisco started the season on the DL as he had an elbow injury even though he did not have surgery. After a few weeks sitting out, Cisco pitched in Clearwater and continued to show the organization that he was well worth being drafted. While in Clearwater he was 7-3 and posted a 3.31 ERA in 73 innings. He also continued his more than impressive control statistics as he only walked 15 batters. These numbers are especially impressive considering he was coming off an injury, as control is always the last thing to come back to a pitcher after being injured. Cisco was eventually promoted to Reading and had some initial difficulties due to the increased competition. The jump from single-A to double-A is the largest jump in the minors and it is very common to see a dip in overall production. Cisco still posted a respectable 4.5 ERA but showed improvement towards the end of the season as he started to feel more comfortable within the Eastern League. I personally saw Cisco multiple times and was originally disappointed when I discovered he was not a Black R&B artist with silver hair while performing to the Thong Song. Nonetheless, Cisco still showed that he consistently attacks the strike zone while being able to throw multiple pitches for strikes.

Cisco will never be defined as a power pitcher but that doesn’t mean he can’t possess the ability to be a successful Major League starter. He is a prototypical sinkerball pitcher as his fastball has good sinking motion and sits in the low 90s, he also consistently throws a good changeup and slider. I hate to throw out overly impressive comparisons for pitchers without incredible stuff but if Cisco continues to show the ability to control multiple pitches while not getting hit on a consistent basis, he could develop into a Brandon Webb type pitcher. If he stalls at all in his pitching development I can’t believe he would be any worse than what Kyle Kendrick currently is. If you have followed my previous posts, Kendrick as a worst case scenario, is nothing to be ashamed of. Cisco will start the year in Reading and will most likely be promoted to Lehigh Valley by year’s end, assuming he continues to develop on his current track.

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